WORTHINGTON — During two decades as coach of the Worthington High girls basketball program, Eric Lindner has seen a lot of success.
But last year, not so much.
Lindner, a 1985 graduate of Adrian High, has amassed a record of 351-153 in his WHS coaching career. His Trojans were just 6-18 last winter, only the third losing season of an otherwise noteworthy tenure.
“You can imagine it was hard for me to stomach,” he said.
This season Lindner believes the Trojans can return to successful form thanks to the return of many experienced, talented players.
“Our goal is to improve on last year’s mark and try to get back over .500,” he said. “We want to get back to having a chance to win the (Big South) conference, maybe winning a couple at sections and having a chance to pull an upset at the end.
“I think you go into every season with high expectations, but we try to be realistic and tell our kids it’s a one-game-at-a-time mindset.”
Last season, the Trojans suffered a huge loss before playing a single game when star center Nyamer Diew transferred to Sioux City East High. Diew, now a 6-1 prep senior, averaged 15 points and eight rebounds at Sioux City East last winter and has signed a letter of intent with NCAA Division I Butler University. She is considered among the top players in WHS history, a list of Division I stars led by former Mississippi State standout and professional player Martha Alwal.
Evelyn Othow earned all-conference honors for WHS a year ago and is now playing at Minnesota West.
But many fine athletes who have starting experience return for the Trojans, including senior point guard Payton Sauerbrei, senior off-guard Madisyn Huisman and senior forward Maya Scheitel-Taylor. Junior Sophie Wiertzema, a 6-foot forward, and junior point guard Stephie Bauman also gained extensive experience a year ago.
Huisman and Scheitel-Taylor are especially fine 3-point shooters. Sauerbrei is an excellent leader and is coming off a solid volleyball campaign. She is one of many Trojans on Lindner’s squad who are multi-sport athletes.
Others expected to contribute this winter are sophomore guard Olivia Hayenga, junior forward Laci Boomgarden, sophomore point guard Brooklyn Scheitel-Taylor and 6-0 freshman centers Ellie Weg and Tarren Spartz.
“We have a lot of point guards and some scorers, but we’re a little thin in the post area,” Lindner said. “Ellie will help us and Tarren will help us. Tarren has been a pleasant surprise these first couple weeks of practice.”
Worthington was 5-7 in Big South West Division play a year ago and trailed Marshall (11-0), Pipestone Area (8-4) and Redwood Valley (7-5). Lindner believes the Trojans this season will compete better with those squads.
“We’re deeper and more balanced as a team. I also think we’re a more consistent shooting team,” Lindner said. “Traditionally we’ve been a very up-tempo and pressing team. We couldn’t do it last year because we didn’t have the depth we needed.”
He believes the Trojans will be better equipped to play their style of ball this winter.
“A weakness would be rebounding,” he said. “Also, we had too many turnovers last year. We’re going to have turnovers because of the tempo we play. But last year we had too many of them that were unforced.”
The Trojans open their season at home Tuesday against Spirit Lake, Iowa.